[UPDATE: April 25, 2008] The technique described below no longer works, as it appears that LinkedIn has closed up this loophole recently. They did, however, at the same time add the ability to add people directly from the groups described as ‘Group B’ as explained below. I don’t know if this is a permanent change, so I’ll just leave this caveat here in case someone gets confused about why this technique no longer works, as one commenter of the posting has already noticed.
I have written about LinkedIn in the past including an entry entitled What is LinkedIn? and one on LinkedIn tips and tricks. I am the committee chairman for LinkedIn for a local networking group called NoCoNet. We have our own group on LinkedIn which is only available to members of NoCoNet. You can see in the list below that we have our own logo. This allows our members to contact each other directly even if they are not directly connected on LinkedIn or even if they do not have an email address for that person. It also gives us a way to search for and find our members on LinkedIn. However, it does not allow one member to invite another member to join networks. I guess LinkedIn’s idea behind these groups is that you should get to know a person first via a LinkedIn message exchange which will then give you that person’s email address and you may use that to invite the person to join networks as a ‘friend’ or ‘other’.
However, I can think of examples where you may have lost the email address of a person you know or have an expired email address and would like to connect with the person if you find him on LinkedIn. So here’s a workaround. In the list above, I have divided the groups up into two categories, A and B. The A affiliations are those which you can create yourself. The B groups are managed by a group manager which you can only join by permission or invitation. Recall that you can send messages to another group member in group B through LinkedIn, but you cannot directly add a person from group B to your network unless you know his email address. However, LinkedIn allows you to add anyone to your network without knowing their email address if you share an affiliation from list A. Here’s the strange part. LinkedIn doesn’t require that the invitee actually have that affiliation listed in his profile. It works the same way as if you shared a company or school affiliation.
Here’s an example I can think of on how to use it. Please keep in mind that I don’t ever recommend inviting anyone who does not know you, only people with whom you’ve already established some connection outside of LinkedIn. Suppose you had met someone on an Alaskan cruise but subsequently lost the person’s email address. Then if you found that person on LinkedIn and wish to reconnect with him, you could ask for an introduction through someone else in your network, assuming he is within 3 levels of you. If he is not, or if you don’t want to bother anyone else in the network for an introduction, you can simply make up an affiliation such as “Alaskan Cruise 2005” and add it to your profile and then request to add that person to your network using the Groups and Affiliations option and selecting Alaska Cruise 2005. After you’ve joined networks, you can simply delete that group.